By Abdul Bari Masoud
Aligarh: Prominent historian of the Aligarh movement, Dr Rahat Abrar strongly contradicted the claim that Aligarh Muslim University land was donated by Raja Mahindra Pratap. He said the land on which AMU was built had not been donated by Raja Mahendra Pratap as claimed by some individuals and organizations in a section of print and electronic media.
Dr. Abrar provided the factual position of the land controversy related to Raja Mahendra Pratap that appeared in some print and electronic media recently. Dr Abrar is director of Urdu Academy, AMU who authored more than half a dozen books on this subject.
Raja Mahindra Pratap the noted freedom fighter, humanist and President of India’s first provisional government in exile established in Kabul in 1915 was one of the 20th century’s foremost “champions of secularism in India”.
Referring to land controversy, Abrar said Mahendra Partap’s father Raja Ghanshyam Singh of Mursan and his father Raja Teekam Singh were “very close friends of Sir Syed Ahmad khan. Subsequently when the Raja suffered a premature death the family accepted Sir Syed’s offer to take the young prince under his tutelage and he was admitted at the MAO college school where he began his formal education.”
” Raja Teekam Singh had donated Rupees 800 / – for Sir Syed’s Scientific Society and Raja Ghanshyam Singh had donated Rupees 1500 / – as donation for the construction of the first hostel of the MAO college”, Abrar said.
Raja Mahindra Pratap had also given 1.2 hectares of land on lease on a token amount of Rupees 2/ – per annum in 1929 for the MAO college school where he had been a student.
However, Abrar underlined that “This plot of land is outside the main university campus the land for which was acquired by Sir Syed from the army cantonment and was not connected in any way to the vast estate of Raja Mahindra Pratap.”
Raja Mahindra Pratap however made extensive donations to different educational and social organizations in Aligarh and Mathura districts
Regarding the special privilege of being permitted to stay in a separate bungalow as a resident student in the year 1895, Abrar said ” This privilege was accorded to him because Sir Syed was conscious of the fact that he owed this to his late friend who had left behind a big fortune for his family and hence it was important that his heir should receive the best education”.
The following facts contradict land donation claim :
1-Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College, Aligarh was established on January 8, 1877. The bulk of the land was procured from the British Government which was in process of closing down the Aligarh Chhawni (Cantonment) from which Sir Syed got 74 acres of land.
2-Raja Mahendra Pratap (1886-1979) was a distinguished alumnus of the MAO College. AMU holds high regards for raja Mahendra Pratap, a great freedom fighter and philanthropist.
3-Raja Mahendra Pratap’s great grandfather, Raja Teekam Singh, and father Raja Ghanshyam Singh of Mursan was also close to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. His great grandfather donated Rs. 800/- for the construction of Scientific Society building at Aligarh. His father donated a sum of Rs. 1500/- for the construction of a room of the Boarding House. This room still exists with a plaque in the premises of the Sir Syed Hall, oldest Hall of residence.
4-The news spread by some individuals and organizations that the Aligarh Muslim University stands on the land given by Raja Mahendra Pratap is totally baseless and factually wrong because Raja Mahendra Pratap was born in the year 1886, nine years after the establishment of MAO College.
5-Raja Mahendra Pratap was admitted to the MAO College in 1895. He was given two rooms in a bungalow (in front of Zahoor Ward) where he lived practically all by himself, surrounded by ten servants and left MAO College without completing his BA in 1907.
6-In 1929, Raja Mahendra Pratap did lease 1.221 Hectares (3.04 Acres) of land at the rate of Rs. 2/- per annum to his alma mater, AMU. Now, this land is in use as a playground of City High School, maintained by the Aligarh Muslim University. Besides this land, the City High School is also having an area of 1.96 hectares which is also on lease in favour of the University.
7-The AMU City High School is located far from the main campus of the University and is situated at G. T. Road, near Aligarh Exhibition ground, around three kilometers from the main campus. Now the University is facing litigation on the above land for the last thirty years for the protection of the said land.
8-As the oldest surviving distinguished alumnus of MAO College, Aligarh, Raja Mahendra Pratap was made the chief guest at AMU’s centenary celebrations in 1977.
9-Raja Mahendra Pratap was also a great freedom fighter and he established the first Provisional Government of India on December 1, 1915, in Kabul (Afghanistan) and became its President-in-exile.
10-AMU is proud to have produced such a great freedom fighter and his portrait was put in the main Hall of the University’s central library, Maulana Azad Library.